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Ole Miss lands historic recruiting class

BBVA Compass Bowl Football AP

(Below is Ole Miss’ press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

OXFORD, Miss. – A flurry of excitement surrounded Ole Miss’ Indoor Practice Facility on Wednesday morning as National Letters of Intent from several of the nation’s top high school prospects flooded in.

Ole Miss became the talk of college football for what Hugh Freeze and his staff were able to accomplish on National Signing Day, luring in a consensus top-10 signing class in just their second year at the helm.

The major recruiting services class rankings currently list Ole Miss at No. 2 (247Sports), No. 5 (ESPN), No. 6 (MaxPreps), No. 7 (Rivals) and No. 9 (Scout).

Eleven high school All-Americans, including the nation’s top overall prospect in Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga.), chose to sign on with Freeze and the Rebels in a historic day for the football program.

“I think today has the possibility of being a program changer,” Freeze said. “Obviously, it’s all on paper right now. We’ll start having to manage expectations now. We’ll still be in the second year of our journey together, but I do think we took a huge step forward today on that journey toward being where we all want to be, and that’s competing for an SEC West championship. We’re thrilled with today.”

The Rebels didn’t just have the college football world abuzz. At one point Wednesday morning, Ole Miss was trending worldwide on Twitter, and it was reported that the Rebels were even the hot topic in the Miami Heat locker room. LeBron James had this to say on his Twitter account: “Ole Miss ain’t messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy.”

In addition to Nkemdiche, who is the nation’s No. 1 defensive end, Ole Miss reeled in the country’s No. 1 offensive tackle in Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla.), the No. 1 wide receiver in Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.) and the No. 2 safety in Tony Conner (Batesville, Miss.). That quartet highlights a class that includes 16 players rated 4 stars or better by the various recruiting services.

“Our staff – I think we have some of the rising stars in this profession in the way they went about recruiting and building relationships over the course of a year and executing our 12-month plan,” Freeze said. “I thought they were pretty flawless in that in most regards. Also, our players – I can’t give them enough credit. They sold our program.”

The Rebels pulled in prospects from eight states, including Mississippi (eight), Georgia (six), Tennessee (four), Alabama (three), Texas (three), Florida (two), Illinois (one) and Louisiana (one).

By position, the Rebels welcome to the program a balanced class of four offensive linemen, four running backs, three defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three wide receivers, three tight ends, three athletes, two quarterbacks, two linebackers and a kicker.

Nkemdiche will join his older brother, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, on the Rebel roster. Denzel earned All-SEC honors as a redshirt-freshman in 2012 while leading Ole Miss to a turnaround 7-6 season and a victory in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Rebels were just 2-10 and 0-8 in SEC play in 2011 before Freeze’s arrival.

Tunsil is regarded as the third-best overall prospect in the country by 247Sports.com, Treadwell is rated the nation’s fifth-best player by Rivals.com, and Conner is ranked 24th by MaxPreps and ESPN.com. Other signees among the nation’s top 150 include OL Austin Golson (Prattville, Ala.), RB Kailo Moore (Rosedale, Miss.) and RB Mark Dodson (Memphis, Tenn.).

The Ole Miss class is littered with All-Americans. In addition to all of the previously mentioned players, Ole Miss welcomes SuperPrep All-Americans QB Ryan Buchanan (Jackson, Miss.) and RB Jordan Wilkins (Cordova, Tenn.), Semper Fidelis All-Americans TE A.J. Jackson (Hampton, Ga.) and CB David Kamara (Loganville, Ga.) and MaxPreps All-American K Andy Pappanastos (Montgomery, Ala.).

Freeze was eager to point out the depth of the class, not just the headliners.

“One of the strengths of our class is those 4-star and high 3-stars that we’ve got,” Freeze said.

One such player he singled out was 3-star WR Derrick Jones (Eupora, Miss.).

“Derrick Jones may be one of the hidden gems of this class,” Freeze said. “The guy’s a phenomenal athlete. I’ve seen him play basketball. He plays above the rim. I think he can play a lot of places for us from safety to receiver.”

Freeze also mentioned others like TE Evan Engram (Powder Springs, Ga.) and in-state offensive linemen Davion Johnson (Byhalia) and Daronte Bouldin (Canton) that could surprise people despite not being the most highly ranked prospects in the class.

The Rebels received 22 high school signatures on Wednesday to go with three junior college players and three high schoolers that had already signed. One of those junior college recruits, DT Lavon Hooks (Atlanta, Ga.), is rated by 247Sports.com as the top overall JUCO prospect in the country. Ole Miss also welcomed back ATH Nick Brassell (Batesville, Miss.), who was a starter on both sides of the ball as a freshman before attending East Mississippi Community College this past fall.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 28 members of Ole Miss’ 2013 recruiting class.)

Quincy Adeboyejo

WR | 6-3 | 180 | Cedar Hill HS | Cedar Hill, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 4-star recruit, the No. 42 wide receiver in the nation and the No. 43 recruit in Texas by Rivals.com … Rated a 3-star recruit by Scout.com, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com … A member of USA Football’s Under-19 national team that competed at the 2013 International Bowl … Associated Press All-State honorable mention selection after recording 91 catches for 1,265 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior … Led Cedar Hill to the Texas Class 5A Division 2 state title game … Dallas All-Area second team pick by the Dallas Morning News … Coached in high school by Joey McGuire.

Trey Bledsoe

ATH | 6-2 | 190 | Grenada HS | Grenada, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com and ESPN.com … Tabbed the No. 13 recruit in Mississippi and the No. 116 athlete in the nation by ESPN.com … Listed as the No. 16 recruit in Mississippi by Scout.com … Named a top 40 recruit in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Selected to play in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Played in just seven games as a senior due to a broken collarbone, but caught 35 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns … As a junior, totaled 27 receptions for 440 yards with six touchdowns on offense and 30 tackles with three interceptions on defense … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Lamar Pitcock.

Daronte Bouldin

OL | 6-6 | 310 | Canton HS | Canton, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star recruit and the No. 72 offensive tackle in the country by ESPN.com … Scout.com rated him as the 49th-best offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 6 overall prospect in Mississippi … Second team All-State pick by The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Ranked the No. 9 in-state prospect on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and also named a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Led Canton to the MHSAA Class 5A state playoffs … Participated in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Coached in high school by Peter Brown.

Nick Brassell

ATH | 6-1 | 180 | East Mississippi CC | Batesville, Miss.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Competed as a sophomore for East Mississippi Community College under the direction of head coach Buddy Stephens … Rated 4 stars and the No. 13 JUCO prospect in the nation by 247Sports.com … A 4-star JUCO recruit by ESPN.com and Rivals.com … Rated the No. 2 JUCO prospect in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … MACJC first team All-State selection … Helped EMCC to an 8-2 record and the MACJC North Division championship … Caught 48 passes for 663 yards and six touchdowns, while returning six kicks for 130 yards and six punts for 25 yards … Made four tackles with two pass deflections as a defensive back … Had 12 catches for 191 yards and a TD in the semifinal playoff game against Copiah-Lincoln … 2011 (OLE MISS): Played in 12 games with seven starts (six at WR, one at CB) … First Rebel to start on offense and defense in the same season since 1988 … Second on the team in receptions (24), receiving yards (336) and TD catches (2) … Recorded 22 receptions for 290 yards in SEC play … Finished fourth among SEC freshmen in yards per catch (14.0) … Posted 14 tackles and five PBUs at cornerback … Earned first letter … vs. BYU (9/3): Earned the starting nod at flanker in his first collegiate game … Rushed for -1 yards on two carries … vs. Southern Illinois (9/10): Caught his first career pass for 6 yards and also rushed once for a 12-yard gain … at Vanderbilt (9/17): Saw first action on defense and made one tackle, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up the first two passes thrown his way as a cornerback … vs. Georgia (9/24): Caught two passes for 52 yards and rushed for 14 yards on two carries … Returned his first career punt for an 84-yard touchdown … Also made one tackle as a cornerback … at Fresno State (10/1): Caught one pass for 40 yards and rushed for 14 yards on two carries … Also recorded two tackles and a pass breakup as a cornerback … vs. Alabama (10/15): Had a career-best game on offense and defense, catching four passes for 101 yards, including a career-long 59-yard reception that set up the only touchdown of the game for the Rebels … Also recorded five tackles (all solo) at cornerback … vs. Arkansas (10/22): Caught a career-high eight passes for 70 yards and rushed five times for 17 yards, while recording one tackle and one pass breakup on defense … at Auburn (10/29): Caught a team-high four passes for 32 yards and his first career touchdown–a 10-yard reception … Also rushed four times for 19 yards and made one tackle … at Kentucky (11/5): Made first career start on defense, recording three tackles (one solo), including 0.5 TFL on an assisted sack, and a pass breakup … Also caught three passes for 40 yards and a touchdown while rushing once for 56 yards … vs. LSU (11/19): Caught one pass for a loss of five yards, while rushing once for a loss of 11 yards … Also returned five kickoffs for 93 yards … at Mississippi State (11/26): Returned one kickoff for 18 yards and rushed for 11 yards on three carries … HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army, PrepStar and SuperPrep All-America selection … Listed No. 2 on The Clarion-Ledger’s Top 10 Most Wanted list and was a member of the paper’s Dandy Dozen squad … Earned first team All-State honors from The Clarion-Ledger and was a first team Class 6A All-State pick by the Mississippi Association of Coaches as a senior … A member of the Rivals100 and rated the No. 51 player in the nation by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 1 player in Mississippi and the No. 7 wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com … Listed No. 24 on the Mobile Press-Register Super Southeast 120 … Rated the No. 7 wide receiver and the No. 56 overall player in the nation by Scout.com … Listed as the No. 29 wide receiver in the nation by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 1 player in Mississippi by SuperPrep … Participated in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic as a senior … Posted 52 receptions for 875 yards and 13 TDs as a senior … Recorded 62 catches for 1,272 yards and 16 TDs as a junior … Won Class 6A state title as a senior and helped squad to Rivals.com High School National Championship as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation … Claimed three state titles in high school … Coached in high school by Lance Pogue.

Eugene Brazley

RB | 5-10 | 180 | G.W. Carver HS | New Orleans, La.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 4-star recruit, the No. 38 running back in the nation and No. 20 prospect from Louisiana by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 26 running back in the nation and No. 13 prospect from Louisiana by 247Sports.com … Rated the No. 14 all-purpose back in the country by Rivals.com … Tom Lemming lists him as the 10th-best wingback in the nation … Listed No. 31 on the Times-Picayune’s Nifty 50 … All-State honorable mention by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association … Also received All-District 9-2A and All-New Orleans Area small school honors … Rushed for 1,040 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, while also making 18 catches for 279 yards and three TDs … Led G.W. Carver to the LHSAA Class 2A state quarterfinals … As a junior, rushed for 487 yards and six TDs and caught 13 passes for 149 yards … Had 342 rushing yards and four TDs as a sophomore and 466 yards and five TDs as a freshman … Coached in high school by Bryon Addison.

Ryan Buchanan

QB | 6-4 | 205 | Jackson Prep | Jackson, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: A SuperPrep All-America selection … Listed as a 4-star recruit by ESPN.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com … Rated the No. 15 pocket passer in the nation and third-best player in Mississippi by ESPN.com … Rated the No. 19 pro-style QB by Rivals.com and the No. 32 QB in the country by Scout.com … A member of the ESPN 300, ranking No. 193 overall … Rated the No. 3 player in Mississippi by Scout.com and No. 5 by Rivals.com … Listed No. 6 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … All-State first team pick by the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and second team by The Clarion-Ledger as a senior … Passed for 1,468 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading Jackson Prep to the MAIS-AAA Division 1 state championship … Participated in the MAIS All-Star Game … Led Prep to a state runner-up finish as a junior, passing for 1,326 yards and 14 TDs and rushing for 433 yards in his first season as the starting QB … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Ricky Black.

Tony Conner

S | 6-2 | 205 | South Panola HS | Batesville, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: An Under Armour and SuperPrep All-America selection … Rated a 5-star prospect by Scout.com and 247Sports.com … Listed as the No. 2 safety in the nation by Tom Lemming, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com … Rated the top prospect in Mississippi by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Rated the No. 24 overall recruit in the nation by MaxPreps and ESPN.com, No. 25 by 247Sports.com and No. 31 by Scout.com … Listed No. 2 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Helped South Panola to three Class 6A state championships in his four years as a starter … Named Mississippi’s Mr. Football and first team All-State by The Clarion-Ledger as a senior … Named Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Recorded 74 tackles with three interceptions and 19 passes defended to lead the Tigers to a state title as a senior … Had seven tackles, two TFLs and a pass breakup in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Three-time Mississippi Association of Coaches All-State honoree, including as a running back his junior season when he rushed for 1,472 yards and 22 touchdowns … Posted 23 tackles and two interceptions as a junior … Coached in high school by Lance Pogue.

Mark Dodson

RB | 5-10 | 193 | Whitehaven HS | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: 2012 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year … Led Whitehaven to a 15-0 record and the 2012 Tennessee 6A state title a year after finishing runner-up … Rated a 4-star recruit by all of the major scouting services … Ranked the nation’s No. 5 all-purpose back and No. 149 overall prospect by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 13 RB in the country by Tom Lemming, No. 22 by 247Sports.com, No. 26 by ESPN.com and No. 35 by Scout.com … Rated the No. 5 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com, No. 7 by ESPN.com and No. 8 by 247Sports.com … A first team Class 6A All-State selection by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as a senior … District 16-AAA Player of the Year … Rushed for 3,295 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior … Ran for 318 yards and five TDs in the state championship game against Maryville, scoring the 2-point conversion that won the game in overtime … Finished his prep career as the all-time leading rusher in Shelby County history with nearly 7,000 yards … Played in the City of Memphis All-Star Game … Rushed for 2,100 yards on 110 carries with 28 TDs as a junior en route to TSWA 6A All-State honors … Finalist for the 2011 Tennessee Mr. Football Class AAA Back award … Rushed for 1,500 yards and 22 TDs as a sophomore … Coached in high school by Rodney Saulsberry.

Evan Engram

TE | 6-3 | 210 | Hillgrove HS | Powder Springs, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star recruit and the No. 22 tight end in the nation by Scout.com … Rated the No. 27 TE in the country by ESPN.com … Named first team All-State as a senior by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and the Associated Press … All-State honorable mention by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution … Hauled in 40 catches for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior … Caught 18 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, helping Hillgrove go 11-1 and advance to the second round of the state playoffs … Caught two touchdowns in the Cobb County All-Star Senior Bowl … Coached in high school by Phillip Ironside.

Austin Golson

OL | 6-6 | 290 | Prattville HS | Prattville, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army and SuperPrep All-America selection … Tabbed a 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the 52nd-best prospect in the nation and No. 3 offensive tackle by ESPN.com … Ranked No. 118 overall and the eighth-best OT by Rivals.com … Ranked the No. 4 recruit in Alabama by ESPN.com and No. 8 by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Rated No. 10 on AL.com’s A-List of top senior football players in Alabama … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Nominated for the AHSAA Class 6A Lineman of the Year award … Two-time Class 6A All-State first teamer by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … Helped Prattville claim the Class 6A state title his junior season, paving the way for an offense that racked up 3,458 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns … Coached in high school by Chad Anderson.

Bobby Hill

DB | 6-0 | 165 | Colquitt County HS | Moultrie, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star recruit and the No. 93 cornerback in the country by Scout.com … Named a second team All-State pick as a wide receiver by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and Associated Press as a senior … Led Colquitt County to the semifinals of the 2012 Class 6A state playoffs while making 78 catches for 1,046 yards and six touchdowns … Led Colquitt County to the semifinals as a junior, as well, racking up 40 catches for 880 yards and eight TDs … Coached in high school by Rush Propst.

Lavon Hooks

DT | 6-4 | 290 | Northeast Mississippi CC | Atlanta, Ga.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Played two seasons at Northeast Mississippi Community College under head coach Ricky Smither … NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American as a sophomore … Among all JUCO prospects in the nation, rated No. 1 by 247Sports.com, No. 11 by Scout.com and No. 15 by ESPN.com … Tabbed the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle by JCGridiron.com … Rated the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Selected first team All-State and All-Region XXIII and the state’s Most Valuable Defensive Lineman by the MACJC … Tied for second in the state and region with 9.5 sacks and ranked second among all JUCO players in the nation with 20.5 tackles for loss … Tallied 51 total tackles and had three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries … Recorded 30 tackles, 3.0 sacks and 3.5 TFLs as a freshman … Also played basketball at Northeast, leading the conference in rebounding as a freshman … Spent his first semester of junior college playing basketball for Marion Military Institute (Marion, Ala.) … HIGH SCHOOL: Graduated from Meadowbrook High School in Norcross, Ga., playing football and basketball there … Averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds for the hoops team as a senior … Participated in football and basketball at Brookwood High School (Snellville, Ga.) in ninth and 10th grades.

A.J. Jackson

TE | 6-6 | 240 | Lovejoy HS | Hampton, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis All-American … Rated the nation’s 15th-best tight end by Tom Lemming, 16th by 247Sports.com, 22nd by Rivals.com and 23rd by Scout.com … A consensus 3-star prospect … Listed the No. 33 prospect in Georgia by 247Sports.com, No. 38 by the Macon Telegraph and No. 39 by Rivals.com … Member of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super 75 … Named a second team All-State tight end by the Georgia Sportswriters Association and Associated Press … An All-Region 2-6A first team pick at wide receiver … Led Lovejoy to the Georgia Class 6A state championship game as a junior and senior … Caught 16 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns as a junior … Also served as Lovejoy’s long snapper … Played in the 2011 AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl … Coached in high school by Al Hughes.

Davion Johnson

OL | 6-4 | 315 | Byhalia HS | Byhalia, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services and the No. 39 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com … Listed as the No. 68 offensive guard in the nation by 247Sports.com and the No. 84 offensive tackle by ESPN.com … Scout.com ranks him the seventh-best player in Mississippi, while ESPN.com has him 12th and Rivals.com 13th … Listed among the top 40 recruits in the state by The Clarion-Ledger and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Led Byhalia to the MHSAA Class 3A state quarterfinals … Played in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game … Coached in high school by John Danley.

Derrick Jones

WR | 6-2 | 185 | Eupora HS | Eupora, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Tabbed a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the 61st-best wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com and No. 89 by Scout.com … Listed as the ninth-best recruit in Mississippi by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Listed among the top 40 recruits in the state by The Clarion-Ledger … Caught a 41-yard touchdown pass in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Named a first team All-State receiver by The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches … Caught 44 passes for 975 yards and 15 touchdowns to help Eupora reach the Class 2A state title game … Also had 39 tackles and six interceptions on defense … All-District selection in football and basketball … Coached in high school by Junior Graham.

David Kamara

CB | 5-10 | 185 | Grayson HS | Loganville, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis All-American … Rated the No. 70 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 85 by ESPN.com … A 3-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com … Named to the Gwinnett Daily Post All-County third team as a senior after helping Grayson win the Region 8-6A championship … Helped Grayson win the Class 5A state title and compile a 15-0 record en route to a No. 4 ranking by USA Today his junior season when he posted 59 tackles and four interceptions … Coached in high school by Mickey Conn … High school teammate of Rebel All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and fellow Ole Miss signee Robert Nkemdiche

Devante Kincade

QB | 6-1 | 185 | Skyline HS | Dallas, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: Rated a 4-star recruit by ESPN.com and Scout.com … Listed as the 12th-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com and No. 18 by 247Sports.com … Scout.com ranks him as the 26th-best QB overall … Tom Lemming has him as the No. 19 combo QB … Ranked the No. 38 prospect in Texas by ESPN.com … A member of the ESPN 300 … MVP of the 2012 Dallas Elite 11 regional camp and one of 25 finalists for the national Elite 11 camp … The District 9-5A MVP and an All-State honorable mention pick by the Associated Press as a senior … Completed 178-of-281 passes for 2,856 yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for 861 yards and 12 TDs during his final prep campaign … Was a second team All-State pick as a junior when he led Skyline to the Class 5A state semifinals and passed for 3,270 yards, 37 TDs and eight picks while rushing for 857 yards and 17 scores … Passed for 1,627 yards with 17 TDs and seven picks as a sophomore … Coached in high school by Reginald Samples.

Quadarias Mireles

ATH | 5-11 | 185 | Hinds CC | Delray Beach, Fla.

JUNIOR COLLEGE: Played two seasons at Hinds Community College under head coach Gene Murphy … Rated the No. 8 JUCO prospect in the nation by ESPN.com … Rated a 4-star JUCO prospect by ESPN.com and 3-star by Scout.com, Rivals.com and 247Sports.com … Two-time MACJC All-State selection … As a sophomore, led Hinds in receptions (38), kickoff returns (11) and kickoff return yards (204) en route to 828 all-purpose yards … Rushed the ball 47 times for 259 yards and two TDs and added 365 receiving yards and two receiving TDs … As a freshman, hauled in 45 catches for 703 yards and had 10 rushes for 110 yards … HIGH SCHOOL: Rated the No. 85 WR in the nation by Scout.com … Ranked the No. 94 WR in the country by ESPN.com … Caught 26 passes for 426 yards and four TDs as a senior … Also ran for 172 yards and one TD … Caught 17 passes for 341 yards and two TDs as a junior … Coached in high school by Andre Thaddeus.

Herbert Moore

DT | 6-2 | 330 | Memphis East | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as the nation’s 56th-best defensive tackle by Rivals.com and 59th by ESPN.com … A consensus 3-star recruit … Rated the No. 16 prospect in Tennessee by Rivals.com and No. 17 by ESPN.com … Selected to play for Team USA Football at the 2012 IFAF Under-19 World Championship … Played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and the City of Memphis All-Star Game following his senior year … Named All-District 16-AAA first team … Recorded 54 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks, four fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown as a senior … Had 46 tackles and eight sacks as a junior … Coached in high school by Marcus Wimberly.

Kailo Moore

RB | 5-10 | 190 | West Bolivar HS | Rosedale, Miss.

HIGH SCHOOL: Selected as a Semper Fidelis and SuperPrep All-American … Rated a 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Listed as the sixth-best all-purpose back and No. 93 overall recruit in the nation by 247Sports.com … Listed as the No. 10 running back in the country by Tom Lemming and No. 19 by Scout.com and ESPN.com … Member of the Scout 300 and ESPN 300 … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Listed No. 4 on The Clarion-Ledger’s 10 Most Wanted and a member of the publication’s Dandy Dozen … Earned first team All-State honors from The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches as both a junior and senior … Rushed for 1,218 yards and scored 18 touchdowns while leading West Bolivar to the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state playoffs as a senior … Also had three interceptions on defense … As a junior, rushed for 1,470 yards and 19 TDs, leading the Eagles to a 15-1 record and the MHSAA Class 2A state championship … Set a school record with five TDs in one game … Coached in high school by Henry Johnson … Also a standout sprinter on the track, he was named Mississippi’s Mr. Track and Field by The Clarion-Ledger as a junior … Competed in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2011 USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships … Eleven-time state 2A champion during his high school track career … Won the state 2A 100-meter dash three times and the 200 twice, including as an eighth grader … Best times of 10.30 in the 100 and 21.22 in the 200.

Christian Morgan

TE | 6-4 | 255 | Prestonwood Christian Academy | Plano, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL: A 4-star prospect and the No. 11 TE in the nation according to Scout.com … Ranked the No. 12 TE in the nation by Tom Lemming, No. 16 by Rivals.com and No. 24 by 247Sports.com … Ranked the No. 12 TE-Y by ESPN.com … Rivals.com lists him as the No. 55 player in the state of Texas … A converted offensive lineman known primarily for his blocking ability, but still caught 31 passes for 497 yards and five TDs as a senior … Had 16 catches for 226 yards as a junior … Coached in high school by Chris Cunningham.

Robert Nkemdiche

DE | 6-5 | 270 | Grayson HS | Loganville, Ga.

HIGH SCHOOL: The consensus No. 1 overall recruit and top defensive end in the nation … An Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection as a senior … Also earned All-America honors from USA Today as a junior … Three-time All-State selection by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Associated Press and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association … Racked up 41 career sacks during his high school career … Named the Gwinnett Daily Post County Defensive Player of the Year as a senior after recording 59 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks to help Grayson win the Region 8-6A championship … Led a defense that allowed only 11 points a game … Also rushed for 235 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense … Tabbed the All-Class Player of the Year (AJC, Associated Press), Gwinnett Daily Post County Defensive Player of the Year and Touchdown Club of Gwinnett Athlete of the Year after his junior season in which he led Grayson to a 15-0 record, Class 5A state title and a No. 4 national ranking by USA Today … Posted 59 tackles and 18 sacks as a junior, while rushing for 528 yards and 17 touchdowns … Played in the AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl … Younger brother of the Rebels’ All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche … High school teammate of fellow Ole Miss signee David Kamara … Coached in high school by Mickey Conn.

Andy Pappanastos

K | 5-11 | 180 | Trinity Presbyterian | Montgomery, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: Named an All-American by Kohl’s Kicking and MaxPreps U.S. Air Force … Three-time Class 3A All-State selection … Set the Alabama high school career record for field goals made with 48, which was two shy of the national record … His 279 career kicking points scored are third all-time in Alabama high school history … Named All-Metro 1A-4A Player of the Year by the Montgomery Advertiser … Named the Montgomery QB Club Private School Player of the Year … Four-year starting kicker and three-year starting safety for Trinity … A two-year starter and first team All-Metro pick in soccer … Coached in high school by Randy Ragsdale.

Marcus Robinson

LB | 6-4 | 210 | Memphis East HS | Memphis, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: Ranked the No. 26 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com and the No. 36 outside linebacker by Scout.com … A consensus 3-star recruit … Listed as the No. 13 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com, No. 18 by 247Sports.com and No. 19 by ESPN.com … Named a Class 5A All-State first team LB by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as a senior … Played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and the City of Memphis All-Star Game following his senior year … Named All-District 16-AAA first team … Recorded 84 tackles and two interceptions on defense and 12 catches for 234 yards and three touchdowns on offense as a senior … Had 92 tackles, 13 TFLs, four forced fumbles and an interception as a junior … Invited to the 2012 Nike football combine “The Opening” … Also played basketball … Coached in high school by Marcus Wimberly.

Ray Ray Smith

LB | 6-3 | 210 | Florence HS | Florence, Ala.

HIGH SCHOOL: Listed as a 3-star prospect by all the major recruiting services and the No. 72 outside linebacker in the country by ESPN.com … Rated the 20th-best player in Alabama by Rivals.com and 24th by ESPN.com … Played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game … Named a first team Class 4A-6A All-State linebacker by the Times Daily and Class 6A honorable mention by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … Made 88 tackles with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a senior … Led Florence to the AHSAA Class 6A state playoffs … Also played basketball and competed in the javelin and high jump in track … Coached in high school by Jamey DuBose.

Laquon Treadwell

WR | 6-3 | 198 | Crete-Monee HS | Crete, Ill.

HIGH SCHOOL: An Under Armour, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection … Rated a 5-star recruit by Rivals.com, Scout.com, 247Sports.com and MaxPreps and the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver by Tom Lemming, Rivals.com and ESPN.com … Listed as the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, No. 6 by MaxPreps, No. 19 by ESPN.com, No. 28 by 247Sports.com and No. 30 by Scout.com … Regarded as Illinois’ top football recruit in 2013 … Had six catches for 46 yards in the Under Armour All-America Game … One of 16 final candidates for the 2013 U.S. Army Player of the Year … Named the Chicago Tribune Player of the Year, NWI Times Offensive Player of the Year and All-State first team as a senior … Led Crete-Monee to the Class 6A state title and hauled in 81 catches for 1,424 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 257 yards and seven more TDs on the ground … Also had 56 tackles and six interceptions on defense … Named the NWI Times Offensive Player of the Year, Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a first team All-State pick as a junior when he recorded 75 catches for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns … Also had 45 tackles, 10 TFLS and eight sacks on defense as a junior … A three-time All-Area selection … Had 58 catches for 811 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore … High school teammate of current Ole Miss defensive back Anthony Standifer … Coached in high school by Jerry Verde.

Laremy Tunsil

OL | 6-6 | 320 | Columbia HS | Lake City, Fla.

HIGH SCHOOL: A U.S. Army, USA Today, MaxPreps and SuperPrep All-America selection … A consensus 5-star recruit and No. 1-rated offensive tackle in the nation by all the major recruiting services … Rated the nation’s No. 3 overall recruit by 247Sports.com, No. 5 by ESPN.com, No. 7 by Scout.com and MaxPreps and No. 14 by Rivals.com … Listed as Florida’s top recruit by 247Sports.com and second-best by Rivals.com … Ranked No. 5 on the Orlando Sentinel’s Florida Top 100 and No. 1 on the paper’s North Florida Super60 … Florida Dairy Farmers Class 6A Player of the Year … First team Class 6A All-State pick by the Associated Press … Helped Columbia run for 275 yards per game en route to the Class 6A state quarterfinals … Associated Press All-State first team selection as a junior, as well … Coached in high school by Brian Allen.

Jordan Wilkins

RB | 6-1 | 210 | St. Benedict at Auburndale HS | Cordova, Tenn.

HIGH SCHOOL: A SuperPrep All-America selection … A consensus 4-star prospect by all the major recruiting services … Rated the No. 9 all-purpose back in the nation by 247Sports.com and the nation’s No. 10 big back by Tom Lemming … Listed as the 20th-best running back by Rivals.com and 21st by ESPN.com … A member of the ESPN 300 … Three-time Division 2-AA All-State selection by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association … Rushed for 1,041 yards and 14 touchdowns in just seven games as a senior before suffering a season-ending knee injury … An honorary selection to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star Game and City of Memphis All-Star Game … Rushed for 1,546 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior and was one of three finalists for the Division 2-AA Back of the Year … Also played basketball … Younger brother of Vanderbilt wide receiver Trey Wilkins … Coached in high school by Michael Davidson.

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Ex-UM WR Csont’e York will serve seven days in jail

Csont'e York

Before Csont’e York can go on to the next chapter of his football-playing career, he’ll have to atone for some of his past transgressions.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the former Michigan wide receiver was sentenced to, among other things, 365 days in jail — he’ll have to serve seven — in connection to the incident that he led him to becoming the former Michigan wide receiver. In late September, York pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault and one charge of assault and battery. In exchange for that plea deal, another assault and battery charge was dropped.

In mid-July, York became involved in a verbal disagreement outside of a drinking establishment in Ann Arbor. Security video that was released Aug. 12 showed York sucker-punching 22-year-old male, who suffered a broken jaw as a result.

York was initially suspended by the football program in early August.  Six days after the video was released, York was dismissed by the Wolverines.

The victim in the case requested that York not be sentenced to jail. The judge had other ideas.

“I feel very strongly that some jail term is appropriate to hold you accountable so you can reflect on your actions and see that your behavior will not be tolerated,” Judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines said in sentencing York according to the Free Press. “In balancing all those factors — accountability, rehabilitation, considering protecting the community and the wishes of victim in this case — I’m going to sentence you to 365 days in jail. I’m suspending the rest, and you will serve seven of those days.”

The paper writes that “[t]he seven-day sentence will be split, with four days occurring immediately, then York being released and returning to jail Oct. 31 for the final three days.”

In addition to the jail time, York was sentenced to 24 months probation; $540 in court fines and costs; and payment of victim medical expenses that currently total $2,134.70. Even more damaging financially for York is that he will also be held responsible for any future unpaid medical expenses connected to the assault, which the judge said could exceed $70,000.

York has transferred to Toledo although he’s not yet a part of the Rockets football team. That’s expected to occur as early as spring practice next year.

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Bear Bryant Award releases 20-coach watch list

AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION GUS MALZAHN

In this latest watch list, it’s all about the Big 12 and SEC, with a healthy sprinkling of the Pac-12 for good measure.

The Bear Bryant Award announced Friday a watch list for its annual Coach of the Year that consists of 20 coaches from seven of the 10 FBS conferences.  It’s mainly, though, a list consisting of coaches from the leagues mentioned in the lede.

The Big 12 and SEC lead all conferences with five coaches apiece, while the Pac-12 is right behind with four.  The Big Ten, with two, is the only other conference with more than one, with the AAC, ACC and Conference USA hitting that singular number.

Six of the coaches on this year’s initial watch list were on last year’s as well: Baylor’s Art Briles, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.  Malzahn, incidentally, won last year’s award.

As for this year’s contenders?  If it were up to me, and at the moment, I’d split the award right down the middle and hand one piece to East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.

That said, below are the 20 members of the Bear Bryant Award watch list.  Bitch, whine and/or moan about who’s on it/not on it below that:

  • Art Briles, Baylor
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
  • Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
  • Huge Freeze, Ole Miss
  • Todd Graham, Arizona State
  • Mark Helfrich, Oregon
  • Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
  • Doc Holliday, Marshall
  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
  • Gary Patterson, TCU
  • Bo Pelini, Nebraska
  • Mark Richt, Georgia
  • Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  • Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
  • Kyle Whittingham, Utah

 

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SMU AD: ‘no discussion of compensation with potential candidates’

Kliff Kingsbury, Mack Brown

You have to love the twists and turns of a coaching search with a high-profile name connected to it.

In a report taking a look at potential candidates to become the permanent successor to June Jones as head coach that we mentioned Thursday, Dallas Morning News writer Bill Nichols set the Twitterverse ablaze with the following: “SMU officials have already had preliminary discussions with former Texas coach Mack Brown, floating $4 million annually over eight years.”

That came a short time after the former UT head coach’s attorney confirmed that SMU had approached his client about a return to the sidelines.  Brown himself, currently serving as a college football analyst on ESPN, said a week earlier that he will decide in December if his coaching career is done.

The hubbub over the $4 million-per-year- report, however, prompted SMU athletic director Rick Hart to take to his Twitter account to shoot it down.

“While it is not our policy to comment during a search process, the attention a recent report has attracted dictates it be addressed. While we have a great deal of respect for Mack Brown, no one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives. To that end, there has been no offer or discussion of compensation with any potential candidates.”

So, in summation…

He was approached [by SMU], I was approached, but he’s not interested in coaching anywhere right now.” — Mack Brown attorney Joe Jamail, Oct. 5.

[N]o one associated with our search has contacted him or his representatives.” — SMU athletic director Rick Hart, Oct. 24.

Yep, love the contradictory statements as part of these searches too.  Then again, maybe the well-heeled boosters and political figures connected to the university’s athletic department are merely circumventing official channels, and those in charge of the search are simply unaware of what’s going on behind doors that are closed to even them.  In Texas, anything and everything is possible.

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Wyoming has fingers crossed for injured second-leading rusher

D.J. May

Last week it was a suspension.  This week, it’s an on-field matter that leaves one of Wyoming’s top running back’s future uncertain.

Earlier this week rumors begin to circulate that D.J. May suffered some type of injury during practice. The school sent out a press release Thursday stating that “May did suffer an injury to a knee in Wednesday’s practice,” but that “[d]octors have not yet evaluated tests on the severity of May’s injury.”

As of early Friday afternoon, there was still no definitive word on May’s status moving forward.

May’s 260 yards and two rushing touchdowns remain second on the Cowboys this season. His two receiving touchdowns are tied for second on the team as well.

Mays was suspended for last Saturday’s overtime loss to San Jose State for violating unspecified team rules.

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Season, college career of starting UConn corner over

Connecticut v Central Florida Getty Images

UConn’s loss to East Carolina Thursday night came at a much steeper cost than just in the won-loss column.

By way of John Silver of snyuconn.com, head coach Bob Diaco confirmed Friday that Byron Jones will miss the remainder of the 2014 season because of injury.  The cornerback aggravated a lingering shoulder injury in the loss, and will undergo season-ending surgery in short order.

“Byron was playing through a small issue there,” Diaco said. “That, then exacerbated himself last night to the point that it needs to be addressed. If it doesn’t get addressed it will be something else. Right now, [it's] an isolated thing that needs to be fixed.”

Because Jones is a senior who has already used his redshirt, and will not be eligible for a medical waiver, his collegiate career has come to a close.

Jones started all seven games this season, and started 39 in his career. This season, his two interceptions are the only two picks for the Huskies defense.

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UNC’s Elijah Hood again listed as doubtful

Liberty v North Carolina Getty Images

For the second consecutive game, it appears North Carolina will be sans one of the most productive members of its backfield.

On its weekly injury report, UNC lists running back Elijah Hood as doubtful for Saturday’s game against Virginia.  Thus far, the nature of Hood’s injury hasn’t been disclosed.

Hood was also listed as doubtful heading into last Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, and ended up not playing against the Yellow Jackets.

Prior to the GT game, Hood had been tops among Tar Heel backs with 199 yards rushing.  His four rushing touchdowns are currently tied for the team lead.

The true freshman was a five-star member of UNC’s most recent recruiting class and was rated as the No. 4 back in the country.

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Judge who will conduct Winston hearing identified

Florida Supreme Court

The “when” of Jameis Winston‘s student conduct hearing is still to be determined.

One “who,” however, has been determined.

According to WCTV in Tallahassee, retired Florida Supreme Court chief justice Major Harding has been selected to preside over the hearing as what’s described as an “independent observer.”  Two other former state court justices, Joseph Hatchett and Charles T. Wells, were in the group of three candidates considered by the Florida State quarterback and his accuser.

Each side was able to strike one of the three from consideration.  If both struck the same judge, FSU would pick from the remaining two.  It’s unknown exactly how Harding came to oversee the hearing.

Harding did confirm to the television station that he has “been chosen to oversee a student conduct hearing, but says no student’s name has been provided to him.”

ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach provided a brief description of each judge in his confirmation of the earlier report on Harding.

Harding, 79, was a state Supreme Court justice from 1991 to 2000. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he is a graduate of Wake Forest and Virginia’s law school. Harding, who is currently a practicing attorney with the law firm Ausley McMullen in Tallahassee, began his career as a jurist in Florida with a 1968 appointment as a Duval County Juvenile Court judge. When he was appointed to the state’s Supreme Court, he was the dean of the Florida Judicial College and chair-elect of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges, according to his bio on the law firm’s website.

Hatchett, 82, was the first black man appointed to a federal appeals court in the Deep South, by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Wells, 75, a graduate of the University of Florida and UF law school, was the Florida Supreme Court’s chief justice from 2000 to 2002. He presided over the 2000 U.S. presidential election recount cases involving the hanging chads on Florida’s ballots.

At the hearing, whenever that may be if it even happens at all, Winston could be charged with up to four student code of conduct violations in connection to the alleged sexual assault of an FSU student in December of 2012.

Winston, as long as he is still a student at the university, will be compelled to attend the hearing. He will not be required, however, to answer questions even as he is permitted to give an opening statement and cross-examine witnesses. Unless given explicit permission by whomever is overseeing the hearing, his attorney, David Cornwell, will not be allowed to speak or argue on his client’s behalf.

Provided it doesn’t interrupt the hearing process, Winston can consult with Cornwell, who will presumably be the one “advisor” permitted at the hearing.

Cornwell has publicly expressed concern over the process, saying earlier this month, “I’m not walking this kid into a firing line without the necessary weapons.”  That tack’s being viewed by some, including the accuser’s attorney, as taking on the feel of “a stall.”

(Photo credit: Florida Supreme Court)

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A&M drops Ducks, adds future Clemson series

12th Man AP

The scheduling gods taketh… and then they giveth right back.

Thursday, Twitter was all, well, atwitter when it was reported that Texas A&M had backed out of its home-and-home series with Oregon that had been scheduled for 2018 and 2019. “Typical SEC school, ducking tough non-conference games,” some derisively said, never mind the fact that A&M already has Notre Dame, Clemson, UCLA and Arizona State on its future slates.

A short time later, however, both A&M and Clemson announced that they had agreed to a future series, with the Tigers replacing the Ducks in 2018 and 2019. Clemson will travel to Kyle Field on September 8, 2018, while TAMU will head to Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2019.

“We are excited to play the Clemson Tigers, who have been on Texas A&M’s non-conference schedule previously, A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said in a statement. “As a fellow land-grant institution, Clemson is very similar to Texas A&M with a great football tradition and passionate fans. This will be a great non-conference series for both schools.”

According to FOXSports.com, Hyman “exercised a clause from the contract A&M and the Ducks… that said they could get out deal if A&M changed conferences.” The original series between A&M and UO was agreed to in 2009, prior to the Aggies’ departure from the Big 12 for the SEC.

Hyman further explained that the reason for dumping Oregon came down to simple math as it relates to home dates in 2018 and 2019.

“Our goal is to play seven home games at Kyle Field each season,” the release quoted Hyman as saying. “Playing at Oregon in 2018, combined with the Arkansas game in Arlington, would leave us with only six home games that season. In even-numbered years such as 2018, we only have three SEC home dates as long as we continue to play Arkansas in Arlington.”

And, for those who are wondering, this is not a case of UO being hard to deal with either.  Also from the release:

Texas A&M offered to switch the home-and-home dates with Oregon on the original contract, but Oregon faces the same situation with only four Pac-12 home games in even years with five on the road.

Clemson and A&M have met four times previously, with the last coming in 2005. The Aggies own a 3-1 edge in the series.

“We are looking forward to playing Texas A&M as the two schools share a rich military heritage and of course passionate fan bases,” Hyman’s Clemson counterpart, Dan Radakovich, said. “We know our fans make Clemson a great game day experience and the Aggie fans make Kyle field also one of the great venues in all of college football.”

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Ground and pound: Hurricanes establish identity during 30-6 victory over Hokies

Al Golden, Duke Johnson

The Miami Hurricanes made a statement Thursday against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

While the program may never return to the winning ways it once experienced while Al Golden is at the helm, the program finally gravitated toward an identity that’s long been forgotten. The vaunted Miami teams from the 1980’s and the early 2000’s used to physically dominate opponents. They did that Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Miami (5-2) captured a dominant 30-6 victory over Virginia Tech (4-4).

When Golden was the head coach of Temple from 2006-10, the Owls climbed their way out of football purgatory by running the football effectively week in and week out. The talent level at Miami supersedes anything Golden had at Temple, but the team’s approach against the Hokies was reminiscent of those Owls.

There was nothing fancy about what Miami did to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes lined up and jammed the ball down the Hokies’ collective throat. Two running backs combined to run for an impressive 364 yards.

Junior running back Duke Johnson ran like a man possessed. Johnson set a career high with 249 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Sophomore Gus Edwards took over in the second half and managed 115 yards.

The Hurricanes were so dominant in the trenches, freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya was only asked to throw the ball 16 teams. He completed seven of those passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Plus, Miami played well on the defensive side of the football.

The Hurricanes shut out the Hokies through the first half of play, before Virginia Tech decided to ride freshman running back Marshawn Williams. Willams carried the ball 21 times for 100 yards. The young back also fumbled twice.

With the ACC Coastal division being wide open, the Hurricanes may have found its identity at the right time. At 2-2 in the division, Miami is now a half game behind the Duke Blue Devils going into this weekend’s games. But Miami holds the head-to-head edge.

If Miami plans to make a run in their division, its ball-control offense will be needed over the next two weeks against the North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 2 Florida State Seminoles.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates may stumble in polls despite 31-21 victory over UConn

Ruffin Mc Neill

The No. 18 East Carolina Pirates secured a 31-21 victory over the Connecticut Huskies Thursday. But was it enough for the Pirates to remain the top non-Power Five program and the favorite to claim an appearance in a contract bowl?

Sometimes a win can be viewed as a loss.

The Pirates struggled against a Huskies squad that entered the game 1-5 and didn’t have a victory against a single FBS opponent this season. It wasn’t until six minutes left in the game that East Carolina finally pulled away from UConn.

When a non-power conference team trying to impress the College Football Playoff gets an opportunity to add style points to their resume on national television, it has to do so. East Carolina didn’t.

The Pirates moved the ball and racked up 580 total yards, but they weren’t able to complete drives most of the evening. UConn employed a bend-but-don’t-break, and the scheme worked.

If East Carolina isn’t putting up big scoring and yardage numbers, the team is nowhere near as impressive.

East Carolina’s primary competition as the top non-Power Five program is the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. The Thundering Herd’s underwhelming schedule has prevented them from legitimately entering the national conversation. Yet, Marshall’s schedule doesn’t feature a team ranked lower than Connecticut.

Despite the lackluster effort, East Carolina did win the game. Ruffin McNeill‘s squad overcame adversity and was able to win a close contest even though everything didn’t go in their favor. The program still holds victories over the Virginia Tech Hokies and the No. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels.

Plus, very few teams feature a dynamic duo like quarterback Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Carden was 38-of-64 passing Thursday for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hardy, meanwhile, grabbed 14 passes for 186 yards. The impressive effort moved Hardy into second place among the FBS’ all-time receptions list.

The Huskies deserve some credit for knocking down the Pirates a notch. First-year head coach Bob Diaco has his team playing hard, and they seem to be figuring some things out. The defense plays sound football, while the offense was finally able to move the ball in stretches against East Carolina.

In the end, East Carolina is still the top non-Power Five program in college football, but the margin between the top team and the second team is much closer after Thursday night’s effort.

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Miami RB Duke Johnson explodes as Miami leads Virginia Tech 24-0 at halftime

Brad Kaaya, Duke Johnson

Welcome to the Duke Johnson show.

The Virginia Tech Hokies simply had no answer for Miami’s running back. Johnson accumulated 185 total yards through two quarters of play as the Hurricanes lead the Hokies 24-0 at halftime.

Miami came into Thursday night’s contest with the intention of establishing the run game, and Al Golden‘s squad did so in spectacular fashion.

As the Hurricanes dominated an undersized Virginia Tech defensive front, Johnson continued to churn out yardage. The junior running back accumulated 148 rushing yards on 19 carries.

The dagger at the end of the first half also came from the running back.

Already leading 17-0, Miami drove the ball to Virginia Tech’s 22-yard line with the clocking ticking within 15 seconds remaining before the horn for halftime blew. With the clock still running, the Hurricanes snapped the ball and freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya found Johnson open out of the backfield for his second touchdown in the half.

While the Hurricanes’ offense running all over the Hokies, Miami’s defense completely shut down the Hokies’ rushing attack. Virginia Tech ran the ball eight times for minus-13 yards.

Because of the Hokies’ inept running game, quarterback Michael Brewer suffered. When forced to throw, Brewer couldn’t step up and make a play. Virginia Tech’s signal-caller finished the half 7-of-12 passing for 49 yards.

The Hokies should expect the same approach from the Hurricanes in the second half. Golden may decide to lighten Johnson’s load (after he establishes a new career high), but Virginia Tech will then get a steady dose of sophomore Gus Edwards.

If Frank Beamer‘s squad has any chance of coming back in tonight’s game, Brewer must take his game to another level. That may be asking too much of the junior quarterback.

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No. 18 ECU Pirates lead UConn 14-7 as Carden, Hardy post memorable halves

Shane Carden

The first half of Thursday’s meeting with the Connecticut Huskies had it all for East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.

Carden already threw the ball 39 times as the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates built a 14-7 over the Huskies at halftime. Carden is well on his way to eclipsing his season high of 48 passes.

The quarterback also doubled his season total for interceptions by throwing an ill-advised pass into the end zone. UConn senior cornerback Byron Jones came down with the ball.

The senior signal-caller also threw a pair of touchdowns. The first of which was a highlight reel reception by senior wide receiver Justin Hardy. Hardy dove in the end zone and bobbled the ball before he finally came down with the 13-yard touchdown reception (see: below).

The catch wasn’t Hardy’s only memorable moment of the evening. The prolific pass-catcher also climbed another rung on NCAA’s all time receptions ladder. Hardy became the NCAA’s third all-time leader in receptions during the first half. The talented wide receiver already made six receptions for 90 yards.

While the Pirates continued to throw the ball over the field, the Huskies prevented the big play. Despite surrendering 302 yards of total offense through two quarters, Connecticut is within striking distance due to Easter Carolina’s miscues.

Connecticut has been able to throw the ball better than expected. Senior quarterback Chandler Whitmer is 7-of-10 passing for 96 yards. But the Huskies stalled on offense numerous times due to penalties and an inability to run the ball.

For the Huskies to remain in the game, they’ll need to shorten the second half. Carden can’t be allowed to throw the ball 25 times in one quarter like he did in the opening frame. A commitment to the running game will help keep the Pirates offense off the field, while the Huskies try to to muster enough offense to garner their first win over an FBS opponent this season.

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Marshall hires PR firm to help with possible College Football Playoff berth

Marshall v Florida International Getty Images

A year ago, the Marshall Thundering Herd would be known as a “BCS Buster.” Instead, Doc Holliday‘s squad is attempting to be this year’s dark horse choice to become one of four teams invited to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The Thundering Herd (7-0) is one of three undefeated teams, and the program is currently ranked 23rd overall in the AP Top 25. With only five games left on the regular season schedule, Marshall has plenty to overcome to be named one of college football’s Top 4 teams.

But the university and Conference USA won’t go down without a fight.

“Marshall University and Conference USA have hired an LA-based public relations firm to assist with their case to be selected to the first College Football Playoff,” Tess Quinlan of USA TODAY Sports reported.

“Brener Zwikel & Associates, which counts the Rose Bowl, Los Angeles Dodgers and Speedo as clients, sent out a release Thursday highlighting the Thundering Herd’s undefeated record, standing in the Amway Coaches Poll and their non-Power Five conference affiliation.”

The Thundering Herd’s schedule is expected to hold the program back despite a potential undefeated campaign. Marshall won’t face a single ranked opponent this season and their biggest win could eventually come in the Conference USA Championship Game.

However, the school features one of college football’s most exciting offenses and an electric quarterback.

Marshall’s offense is ranked second overall behind the Baylor Bears. The Bears only average 4.1 more yards per game than the Thundering Herd. And senior quarterback Rakeem Cato accumulated 2,135 total yards and 24 total touchdowns through seven games.

While it’s unlikely a strong public relations effort will be enough to push the Thundering Herd into this year’s College Football Playoff, the hire won’t be for naught. Marshall still trails the No. 18 East Carolina Pirates as the top program not affiliated with a Power Five conference. The highest-rated team outside of the Power Five automatically receives a bid to one of the remaining contract bowls.

Marshall’s ability to pass East Carolina in the rankings is far more important and achievable than chasing a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Report: Syracuse football is under NCAA investigation

Scott Shafer

Syracuse is the latest football program to find itself in the clutches of the NCAA.

While the Orange’s basketball team was believed to be the focus of an ongoing investigation, there are concerns regarding the football program, too.

Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink reported the investigation could affect multiple areas within the school’s athletic department.

“The Syracuse football program is part of the wide-ranging NCAA investigation into the school’s athletic department,” sources told Mink.

“The information shows that the NCAA inquiry that has swirled around the basketball team for two years is more involved, and that the football team is part of the investigation and potentially exposed to penalties. It’s unclear if other teams are involved.”

If the Orange football team was to receive any type of sanctions, possible infractions apparently didn’t occur during Doug Marrone‘s tenure. Marrone served as the Orange’s head coach from 2009-12. The current head coach of the Buffalo Bills spoke with Fink about possible reasons behind the investigation.

“There’s nothing that I know about that we did that wasn’t either punished or put forth,” Marrone said.

“One thing I did, if we made a mistake, an incidental contact or something, I just always reported it. It’s not worth it. This way I can sleep at night.”

Syracuse officials are expected to meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis at some point before the end of the month.

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Michigan lowers student-ticket prices for 2015 season

Minnesota v Michigan Getty Images

The Big House’s student section should be completely full during every game next season.

After recent complaints by the student body, the University of Michigan decided its in the school’s best interests to decrease the prices of student tickets for the 2015 campaign.

This season, a season ticket purchased by a student was $280. Next season, the prices will be dropped to $175 per season ticket.

“We’ve been listening,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The Michigan Daily Thursday. “We really learned that two really important components to re-engaging with our students in trying to create a more robust, more enthusiastic and larger student section for next year’s football season was price and strength of schedule.

“A nearly 40-percent reduction in ticket prices is, I think it’s fair to say, unprecedented.”

However, it’s not quite to the price level demanded by the president of Michigan’s central student government, Bobby Dishell, a week earlier at Michigan’s Board of Regents meeting.

During’s Dishell’s address to the board, he said Michigan’s “athletic department has broken its trust” with students. Another student representative respectfully asked for Brandon’s resignation.

Dishell appears happy with the change, though.

“It’s been great working together,”  Dishell told The Michigan Daily. “We realized that the University takes need into account when you’re coming here, so your experiences here should also take that into account.”

As the future of the football program remains in turmoil, it appears to have regained the trust of its students and may avoid seeing empty seats at Michigan Stadium.

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